Who Wins The Grammy For Record Of The Year?

 

BY RYAN MILOWICKI

Tonight’s Grammy Awards will hand out dozens of trophies, in a very subjective and nearly impossible-to-predict manner. However, the one award which has always captured my attention is Record Of The Year, one of the esteemed “Big Four” awards. Rather than going to the songwriting team (as Song Of The Year does), Record Of The Year is purportedly awarded to the single that represents the height of artistic achievement and ubiquity for the preceding year.

My Hot 100-based historic chart rankings can’t speak for the artistic merit of any song, but they certainly afford a window into the ubiquity question. So as the ceremony approaches, I thought it would be interesting to see if the Record Of The Year winner aligns closely with my year-by-year rankings, specifically in relation to the other nominees.

To accomplish this, for each year I will rank the nominees in order of their year-end ranking (not peak on the Hot 100) in my point totals for each correspondent year. The actual winner will be in green, and I’ll have a few points to make at the bottom of the page.

1958

Nel Blue Dipinto Di Blu (Volare) – Domenico Modugno (#11)

Fever – Peggy Lee (#34)

The Chipmunk Song – Alvin And The Chipmunks (#113)

Catch A Falling Star – Perry Como (Not Ranked)

Witchcraft – Frank Sinatra (Not Ranked)

1959

Mack The Knife – Bobby Darin (#1)

The Three Bells – The Browns (#13)

A Fool Such As I – Elvis Presley (#51)

High Hopes – Frank Sinatra (#147)

Like Young – Andre Previn (#241)

1960

Theme From “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith (#3)

Georgia On My Mind – Ray Charles (#64)

Mack The Knife – Ella Fitzgerald (#131)

Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley (#156)

Nice ‘N’ Easy – Frank Sinatra (#406)

1961

Big Bad John – Jimmy Dean (#20)

Moon River – Henry Mancini (#128, #76 in 1962)

Take Five – Dave Brubeck (#137)

Up A Lazy River – Si Zentner (#343)

The Second Time Around – Frank Sinatra (#371)

1962

I Can’t Stop Loving You – Ray Charles (#2)

I Left My Heart In San Francisco – Tony Bennett (#22)

Desafinado – Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd (#82)

What Kind Of Fool Am I – Sammy Davis Jr. (#86)

Fly Me To The Moon (Bossa Nova) – Joe Harnell (#101)

1963

Days Of Wine And Roses – Henry Mancini (#44)

I Wanna Be Around – Tony Bennett (#63)

Dominique – The Singing Nun (#123)

Wives And Lovers – Jack Jones (#207)

Happy Days Are Here Again – Barbra Streisand (Not Ranked)

1964

Hello, Dolly! – Louis Armstrong (#1)

I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles (#2)

Downtown – Petula Clark (#6 in 1965)

People – Barbra Streisand (#11)

The Girl From Ipanema – Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto (#53)

1965

The “In” Crowd – Ramsey Lewis Trio (#7)

King Of The Road – Roger Miller (#12)

A Taste Of Honey – Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass (#21)

Yesterday – The Beatles (#36)

The Shadow Of Your Smile – Tony Bennett (Not Ranked)

1966

Strangers In The Night – Frank Sinatra (#10)

Monday, Monday – The Mamas And The Papas (#26)

Winchester Cathedral – The New Vaudeville Band (#55)

Almost Persuaded – David Houston (#71)

What Now My Love – Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass (#199)

1967

Ode To Billie Joe – Bobbie Gentry (#11)

Somethin’ Stupid – Frank & Nancy Sinatra (#14)

My Cup Runneth Over – Ed Ames (#46)

Up, Up And Away – The 5th Dimension (#54)

By The Time I Get To Phoenix – Glen Campbell (#166)

1968

Hey Jude – The Beatles (#2)

Honey – Bobby Goldsboro (#6)

Harper Valley P.T.A. – Jeannie C. Riley (#18)

Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel (#20)

Wichita Lineman – Glen Campbell (#132)

1969

Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In – The 5th Dimension (#2)

Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet – Henry Mancini (#18)

Spinning Wheel – Blood, Sweat And Tears (#29)

A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash (#36)

Is That All There Is – Peggy Lee (#118)

1970

(They Long To Be) Close To You – The Carpenters (#3)

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel (#13)

Let It Be – The Beatles (#14)

Fire And Rain – James Taylor (#15)

Everything Is Beautiful – Ray Stevens (#25)

1971

Joy To The World – Three Dog Night (#3)

It’s Too Late – Carole King (#5)

You’ve Got A Friend – James Taylor (#24)

Theme From “Shaft” – Isaac Hayes (#53)

My Sweet Lord – George Harrison (#93)

1972

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – Roberta Flack (#2)

Alone Again (Naturally) – Gilbert O’Sullivan (#3)

Without You – Nilsson (#5)

American Pie – Don McLean (#18)

Song Sung Blue – Neil Diamond (#41)

1973

Bad, Bad Leroy Brown – Jim Croce (#3)

Killing Me Softly With His Song – Roberta Flack (#21)

You Are The Sunshine Of My Life – Stevie Wonder (#23)

Behind Closed Doors – Charlie Rich (#48)

You’re So Vain – Carly Simon (#65)

1974

Midnight At The Oasis – Maria Muldaur (#4)

Feel Like Makin’ Love – Roberta Flack (#32)

Help Me – Joni Mitchell (#41)

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – Elton John (#79)

I Honestly Love You – Olivia Newton-John (#85)

1975

Rhinestone Cowboy – Glen Campbell (#2)

Love Will Keep Us Together – The Captain & Tennille (#4)

At Seventeen – Janis Ian (#10)

Lyin’ Eyes – The Eagles (#72)

Mandy – Barry Manilow (#142)

1976

If You Leave Me Now – Chicago (#15)

Afternoon Delight – Starland Vocal Band (#30)

50 Ways To Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon (#62)

This Masquerade – George Benson (#67)

I Write The Songs – Barry Manilow (#91)

1977

Evergreen (Love Theme From A Star Is Born) – Barbra Streisand (#6)

You Light Up My Life – Debby Boone (#12)

Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue – Crystal Gayle (#14)

Hotel California – The Eagles (#24)

Blue Bayou – Linda Ronstadt (#62)

1978

Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees (#2)

You Needed Me – Anne Murray (#9)

Feels So Good – Chuck Mangione (#12)

Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty (#22)

Just The Way You Are – Billy Joel (#40)

1979

I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor (#3)

What A Fool Believes – The Doobie Brothers (#19)

After The Love Has Gone – Earth, Wind & Fire (#31)

The Gambler – Kenny Rogers (#94)

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond (#99 in 1978)

1980

The Rose – Bette Midler (#7)

Woman In Love – Barbra Streisand (#20)

Sailing – Christopher Cross (#36)

Lady – Kenny Rogers (#51)

Theme From “New York, New York” – Frank Sinatra (#168)

1981

Bette Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes (#2)

Endless Love – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (#3)

Just The Two Of Us – Grover Washington Jr. & Bill Withers (#10)

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) – Christopher Cross (#12)

(Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon (#87)

1982

Rosanna – Toto (#9)

Chariots Of Fire – Vangelis (#14)

Always On My Mind – Willie Nelson (#17)

Ebony And Ivory – Stevie Wonder & Paul McCartney (#20)

Steppin’ Out – Joe Jackson (#40)

1983

Flashdance… What A Feeling – Irene Cara (#1)

Every Breath You Take – The Police (#3)

Beat It – Michael Jackson (#4)

Maniac – Michael Sembello (#12)

All Night Long (All Night) – Lionel Richie (#28)

1984

What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner (#1)

Hard Habit To Break – Chicago (#11)

Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen (#15)

Girls Just Want To Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper (#16)

The Heart Of Rock & Roll – Huey Lewis And The News (#34)

1985

Money For Nothing – Dire Straits (#5)

The Power Of Love – Huey Lewis And The News (#10)

We Are The World – USA For Africa (#51)

The Boys Of Summer – Don Henley (#108)

Born In The U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen (#199, #185 in 1984)

1986

Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer (#6)

Higher Love – Steve Winwood (#8)

Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel (#16)

Greatest Love Of All – Whitney Houston (#24)

That’s What Friends Are For – Dionne Warwick & Friends (#73)

1987

La Bamba – Los Lobos (#10)

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2 (#36)

Luka – Suzanne Vega (#48)

Back In The High Life Again – Steve Winwood (#71)

Graceland – Paul Simon (#446)

1988

Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin (#16)

Roll With It – Steve Winwood (#35)

Man In The Mirror – Michael Jackson (#45)

Fast Car – Tracy Chapman (#50)

Giving You The Best That I Got (#88)

1989

Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler (#1)

She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals (#10)

The Living Years – Mike + The Mechanics (#23)

The End Of The Innocence – Don Henley (#63)

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel (#94)

1990

Vision Of Love – Mariah Carey (#9)

Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor (#15)

U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer (#53)

From A Distance – Bette Midler (#85)

Another Day In Paradise – Phil Collins (#184, #156 in 1989)

1991

(Everything I Do) I Do It For You – Bryan Adams (#2)

Baby Baby – Amy Grant (#12)

Losing My Religion – R.E.M. (#25)

Something To Talk About – Bonnie Raitt (#33)

Unforgettable – Natalie Cole (#98)

1992

Save The Best For Last – Vanessa Williams (#6)

Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton (#7)

Achy Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus (#10)

Beauty And The Beast – Peabo Bryson & Celine Dion (#60)

Constant Craving – k.d. lang (#153)

1993

The River Of Dreams – Billy Joel (#22)

A Whole New World – Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle (#27)

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston (#33)

If I Ever Lose My Faith In You – Sting (#81)

Harvest Moon – Neil Young (Not Ranked)

1994

I’ll Make Love To You – Boyz II Men (#21)

All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow (#27)

Streets Of Philadelphia – Bruce Springsteen (#54)

Love Sneakin’ Up On You – Bonnie Raitt (#82)

He Thinks He’ll Keep Her – Mary Chapin Carpenter (Not Ranked)

1995

Waterfalls – TLC (#3)

Kiss From A Rose – Seal (#7)

Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio f/L.V. (#26)

One Sweet Day – Boyz II Men & Mariah Carey (#181, #25 in 1996)

One Of Us – Joan Osborne (#234, #40 in 1996)

1996

Give Me One Reason – Tracy Chapman (#4)

Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion (#6)

Ironic – Alanis Morisette (#11)

Change The World – Eric Clapton (#20)

1979 – The Smashing Pumpkins (#30)

1997

I Believe I Can Fly – R. Kelly (#8)

Sunny Came Home – Shawn Colvin (#26)

MMMBop – Hanson (#28)

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone – Paula Cole (#34)

Everyday Is A Winding Road – Sheryl Crow (#53)

1998

You’re Still The One -Shania Twain (#3)

The Boy Is Mine – Brandy & Monica (#12)

My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion (#38)

Ray Of Light – Madonna (#60)

Iris – The Goo Goo Dolls (#213, Billboard changed its rules in late 1998 to let non-physically released singles like “Iris” be eligible for the Hot 100)

1999

I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys (#4)

Believe – Cher (#6)

No Scrubs – TLC (#7)

Smooth – Santana f/Rob Thomas (#22, #7 in 2000)

Livin’ La Vida Loca – Ricky Martin (#26)

2000

Say My Name – Destiny’s Child (#12)

I Try – Macy Gray (#20)

Bye Bye Bye – *NSYNC (#25)

Music – Madonna (#30)

Beautiful Day – U2 (#155, #113 in 2001)

2001

Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me) – Train (#2)

Fallin’ – Alicia Keys (#13)

Ms. Jackson – Outkast (#53)

Video – India.Arie (#213)

Walk On – U2 (Not Ranked)

2002

A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton (#1)

How You Remind Me – Nickelback (#4)

Dilemma – Nelly & Kelly Rowland (#11)

Without Me – Eminem (#25)

Don’t Know Why – Norah Jones (#195, #104 in 2003)

2003

Crazy In Love – Beyoncé f/Jay-Z (#11)

Where Is The Love? – Black Eyed Peas (#19)

Clocks – Coldplay (#62)

Hey Ya! – Outkast (#109, #32 in 2004)

Lose Yourself – Eminem (#123, #70 in 2002)

2004

Yeah! – Usher f/Ludacris & Lil Jon (#1)

Heaven – Los Lonely Boys (#17)

Let’s Get It Started – Black Eyed Peas (#63)

American Idiot – Green Day (#179)

Here We Go Again – Ray Charles f/Norah Jones (Not Ranked)

2005

We Belong Together – Mariah Carey (#2)

Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Green Day (#8)

Hollaback Girl – Gwen Stefani (#9)

Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz (#14)

Gold Digger – Kanye West f/Jamie Foxx (#28)

2006

You’re Beautiful – James Blunt (#7)

Crazy – Gnarls Barkley (#12)

Be Without You – Mary J. Blige (#13)

Not Ready To Make Nice – Dixie Chicks (#152) 

Put Your Records On – Corinne Bailey Rae (#204)

2007

Umbrella – Rihanna f/Jay-Z (#8)

What Goes Around… Comes Around – Justin Timberlake (#21)

Irreplaceable – Beyoncé (#25)

Rehab – Amy Winehouse (#82)

The Pretender – Foo Fighters (#124)

2008

Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis (#1)

Viva La Vida – Coldplay (#4)

Paper Planes – M.I.A. (#39)

Chasing Pavements – Adele (#429, #307 in 2009)

Please Read The Letter – Alison Krauss & Robert Plant (Not Ranked)

2009

Poker Face – Lady Gaga (#1)

Use Somebody – Kings Of Leon (#3)

You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift (#6)

I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas (#12)

Halo – Beyoncé (#14)

2010

Need You Now – Lady Antebellum (#2)

Nothin’ On You – B.o.B f/Bruno Mars (#13)

Love The Way You Lie – Eminem f/Rihanna (#16)

Empire State Of Mind – Jay-Z & Alicia Keys (#59, #61 in 2009)

F*** You – Cee Lo Green (#72, #5 in 2011)

2011

Rolling In The Deep – Adele (#1)

Firework – Katy Perry (#7)

Grenade – Bruno Mars (#18)

The Cave – Mumford & Sons (#152)

Holocene – Bon Iver (Not Ranked)

2012

Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye f/Kimbra (#1)

We Are Young – Fun. f/Janelle Monae (#4)

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson (#7)

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift (#40)

Thinkin Bout You – Frank Ocean (#87)

Lonely Boy – The Black Keys (#230)

2013

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons (#1)

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke f/Pharrell & T.I. (#6)

Get Lucky – Daft Punk f/Pharrell (#12)

Royals – Lorde (#24, #48 in 2014)

Locked Out Of Heaven – Bruno Mars (#21, #94 in 2012)

2014

Fancy – Iggy Azalea f/Charli XCX (#5)

Stay With Me – Sam Smith (#8, #66 in 2015)

Chandelier – Sia (#12, #100 in 2015)

All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor (#22, #36 in 2015)

Shake It Off – Taylor Swift (#45, #17 in 2015)

2015

Uptown Funk! – Mark Ronson f/Bruno Mars (#1)

Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran (#3)

Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd (#15)

Blank Space – Taylor Swift (#18)

Really Love – D’Angelo And The Vanguard (Not Ranked)

2016

Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots (#2)

Work – Rihanna f/Drake (#8)

7 Years – Lukas Graham (#13)

Hello – Adele (#41)

Formation – Beyoncé (#218)

 

As promised, here are a few observations:

  • When compared against each other, the higher ranking among nominees had very little bearing on who actually won. Of the 58 winners, 16 were top-ranked, 15 were second, 8 were third, 8 were fourth, and 11 were the lowest-ranked.
  • However, many of these songs were all high-ranked in their own regard. 50 of the 58 winners appeared in their respective year-end Top 100, and most years had at least four nominees representing their year-end Top 100.
  • Three of those eight winners who didn’t make the Top 100 for their year didn’t even make the Hot 100 at all. This is an interesting fact, since only 11 nominees (two of which predate the Hot 100 itself) in the history of the award have failed to reach the Hot 100. This is an example of my well-documented irritation with the Grammy Awards, as these choices seemed to be more concerned with appearances rather than their impact on the year in music (Did U2 really need to win twice in a row… in the 2000s?)
  • This list also shows that year-over-year wraparound can get messy. Since my yearly rankings cut off cleanly at December 31 for each year, December #1 hits (like Phil Collins’ “Another Day In Paradise”) accrue enough points to make any year’s Top 100, but by spreading their points equally across both years of their chart run, they often wind up missing both year-end rankings. This problem is compounded by the Grammys’ wacky definition of the “year” in music. Tonight the Grammys honor work put out as early as September 2015 (It’s been 16 months since “Hello” first topped the Hot 100!), and most of the songs you’ll see performed tonight have been around for a while yet won’t get a chance to compete until 2018.

A few quick notes about tonight’s nominees.

  • Should Twenty One Pilots or Beyoncé take home the award tonight, they will become the first American lead artist to win Record of the Year since Lady Antebellum did so with “Need You Now” at the 2011 ceremony. Bruno Mars obviously was a large factor in “Uptown Funk”‘s win last year, but Brit Mark Ronson took lead billing for the Grammy.
  • If you’re keeping score at home, Lukas Graham is a Danish band, Rihanna is from Barbados, Drake is from Canada, and Adele is British. The last five winners have come from Europe:
    • 2015 – Mark Ronson (UK)
    • 2014 – Sam Smith (UK)
    • 2013 – Daft Punk (France)
    • 2012 – Gotye (Belgium)
    • 2011 – Adele (UK)
  • If Beyoncé wins with “Formation,” it will become the lowest-ranked winner with respect to my rankings since Alison Krauss and Robert Plant shared the award in 2008 with the non-charting “Please Read The Letter.”

 

Hopefully that gives you more than enough objectivity to ease your watching of the Grammys tonight! For the record, I’ll predict that Adele takes home her second Record of the Year award, but I could very easily be wrong. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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